By Ed Leahy
Drogheda United’s excellent start to the season has faultered in recent weeks and things don’t get any easier as they welcome champions St Patrick’s Athletic to Hunky Dorys Park, (kick off 6.00pm).
Robbie Horgan’s side opened their campaign in style by hammering local rivals Dundalk 4-1 and went on a six-game unbeaten run beating Limerick and Athlone as well as drawing with Sligo and Derry.
But that has all come unstuck over the past few weeks as United were beaten by Cork and Bray and they will again find the going tough against an in-form St Pat’s who have progressed to third place in the league after a sluggish start.
Drogheda have relied heavily on top scorer Declan O’Brien who has already scored seven league goals this season but ‘Fabio’ has been held scoreless in the last two games, which has resulted in two defeats for the Louth men.
Apart from O’Brien, there are potentially plenty of goals in the Drogheda team with Gary O’Neill, Philly Hughes and Gavin Brennan all very capable of scoring but they will need to step up to help O’Brien and get back to winning ways.
Michéal Schlingermann and Austin McCann are the only players unavailable for Drogheda so manager Horgan has a decent squad at his disposal to name a strong squad for the visit of Saints.
The heart of the United midfield was ripped out of the side during the close season as Ryan Brennan and Paul O’Conor moved on to pastures new and it is here that St Pat’s should take advantage as they are spoilt for choice in the centre of the park.
And gaffer Horgan knows that his side face a tough test against a new-look St Pat’s but he believes his insider knowledge of manager Liam Buckley might see his side sneak a victory.
“I know Liam Buckley well from our time together at Sporting Fingal,” said Horgan. “And it’s interesting to see that probably for the first time in years that Liam has changed the shape of his team from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1.
“Perhaps this is a means of accommodating his best players into the side given the depth of quality that they have.
“The champions are always the team to beat but with the way the league has gone so far it is impossible to tell. They are a good side and I got a detailed match report on how they performed on Friday, which was very complimentary on how they played. They have quality throughout their squad but we have had good results against them through the years and we will be aiming to come out on top again tomorrow.“
The Saints will be looking to maintain their unbeaten away record with their visit to Drogheda and while Kenny Browne sits out the game as he serves a one match ban Buckley has a full squad to choose from, with Killian Brennan and Greg Bolger coming back into contention having served suspensions.
“Robbie Horgan has come in as their new manager this year and has brought a good squad of players together,” said Buckley. “They’ve had a good start to the season and will be tough opponents on Monday. We’re looking forward to the challenge though, and hopefully we can get the three points.”
Verdict: St Patrick’s Athletic